Everyone sets their hope on something. Whether big or small, we all look forward to certain goals and order our lives to attain these goals (cf. Phil. 3:11, Acts 26:7). In the New Testament, the Apostles command us to set our hope entirely on the return of Jesus:
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:13)
The maturity of the church in the New Testament is often measured by a three-fold standard of faith, love, and hope (Gal. 5:5-6; Col. 1:3-5; 1 Thess. 1:2-3, 5:8; Heb. 10:22-24; Jude 20-21). As Peter lays out in the passage above, a believer’s hope should be fully set on the grace to be brought to us on the Day of Christ or it is a false and misplaced hope. As Paul said, “We wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Rom. 8:23-25).
As Christians, our lives should bear this undeniable mark: A firm hope and eager longing for the return of Jesus.
Do we often think about His return? Do we often talk about His return?
How is it that such a central and explicit aspect of the Christian life (“eagerly awaiting the revelation of Jesus” -1 Cor. 1:7) is shockingly missing, not just from our daily meditation, but also from our weekly gatherings? Aren’t we called to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering”, meeting together and encouraging each other “all the more as [we] see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:23-25, cf. Rom. 13:11-12)?
Just as the contention in the New Testament was one of FAITH (trusting in the righteousness of Jesus vs. self-righteousness, cf. Acts 15:1-11, Gal. 2:16, Eph. 2:8-9, Phil. 3:9, Heb. 10:22, etc.), I believe the Church today is facing a perversion of HOPE (looking to the return of Jesus from heaven vs. looking to die and experience heaven). Some even choose not to think about the future altogether and instead put their hope on this present life (expecting blessing after blessing vs. suffering before glory -Rom. 8:18). However, such a hope is doomed to fail as Paul said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19)
Though secondary to HOW we attain our hope (through faith), there is indeed a widespread confusion concerning the content of WHAT that hope actually is. Consider Paul’s words:
“I count all things to be loss… so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith [HOW we will attain our hope]… in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead [WHAT our hope consists of]. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory… Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord… my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Phil. 3:8-11, 20-4:3)
The scandalous hope of the Jewish people (“Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” -Acts 26:6-8) has not changed. Yet, instead of trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus to bring us eternal life at the resurrection (Tit. 3:7), “the confession of our hope” in “the Day” (Heb. 10:23-25) has been grossly replaced with vague ideas of “getting to heaven when we die” and escaping materiality.
I deem this is one of the primary reasons we don’t long for Jesus’ return like the Apostles did and expected us to (2 Tim. 4:8, Heb. 9:28). As Randy Alcorn puts it: “Trying to develop an appetite for a disembodied existence in a non-physical Heaven is like trying to develop an appetite for gravel. It’s not going to work. Nor should it. What God made us to desire, and therefore what we do desire, is exactly what God promises to those who follow Jesus: the resurrected life in a resurrected body, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected earth.”
A longing for the Christian hope will only grow strong to the degree we rediscover the Christian hope. Strewn out across the pages of Scripture, our “blessed hope” (Tit. 2:13) is neither vague nor hidden. We are eagerly awaiting the Messiah appointed for Israel, “whom heaven must receive until the times of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:20-21).
On the Day the Father has fixed by His own authority (Acts 1:7, 17:31), Jesus will return to the earth (Acts 1:11), raise our bodies from the dust (Jn. 5:28-29, 1 Cor. 15:50-55, Phil. 3:21) and “at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne” (Mt. 19:28), we “will inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5) and “come from east and west and north and south, and will take [our] places at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 13:29) which “will have no end” (Lk. 1:32-33).